People said they wanted something invisible that didn’t destroy their hair. So how do you come up with something like that? And it had to be something that wasn’t on your head. And for us, then, it was logical to think about airbag technology, something that would inflate around your head when you’re in an accident. —Anna Haupt, cofounder of Hövding
Beauty is pain — at least, that’s the case for many people who are willing to risk the dangers of riding a bike without a helmet. But two women in Sweden decided to tackle the traditional perception of a helmet and transform it into something entirely different, yet functional.
“Every year, 30 people die in cycling accidents in Sweden, and around 30,000 are injured,” said Terese Alstin, cofounder of Hövding, in a Business Awards Europe video clip. “Every third person who is injured gets a head injury, and even though people are well aware of the risks in traffic, the vast majority of people choose to go cycling without any head protection.”
Alstin and cofounder Anna Haupt began thinking about an “airbag helmet” in 2005 when the Swedish government passed a law that children under 15 must wear a helmet while on a bicycle. According to cake&whiskey.com, some worried that helmets would become mandatory for adult cyclers as well.
“People said they wanted something invisible that didn’t destroy their hair. So how do you come up with something like that? And it had to be something that wasn’t on your head,” Haupt said in the same video. “And for us, then, it was logical to think about airbag technology, something that would inflate around your head when you’re in an accident.”
Hövding sits on a rider's neck and looks like a collar or a scarf. A snap button turns on the device’s sensors, which monitor the user’s activity.
“Hövding contains sensors that are constantly monitoring the cyclist’s movements when it is switched on. The sensors detect any changes in velocity or angle of the cyclist and can distinguish between normal cycling and accidents,” according to the Hövding website.
The airbag helmet provides a higher quality of shock absorption than any other helmet, the website proclaims.
“In 2012, Swedish insurance company Folksam performed a test on the 13 most common cycle helmets on the market,” the website reads. “The test showed that Hövding provides more than three times better shock absorption than any other helmet.”
Alstin and Haupt are seeing success with their product. This year the company was nominated for the Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the European Business Awards, and it is gaining a following of cyclers.
“You two are brilliant women — thank you for your contribution to the biking world,” wrote Kayla Helms, a commenter on the Hövding Facebook page. ”I cannot wait to purchase one of your ‘helmets.’”
Others have criticism about the Hövding’s price, one-time inflation use and its safety claims.
“I think that this really tells us all we need to know about the idea: It's a clever wheeze dreamed up as part of a graduation project by two industrial-design students and probably not meant to be taken very seriously,” wrote BalbKubrox, a commenter on an article The Guardian ran about Hövding. “More equipment = more bother. Keep cycling simple.”
Hövding is only available for sale in Europe. It costs about $536, and extra shell coverings cost about $79.